History and Uses of Self Adhesive Labels

Self Adhesive Labels

Self adhesive labels are pressure sensitive labels that stick to surfaces when you put pressure on them. Water or any kind of solvent is not needed for these labels to stick to any surface. Some factors like surface tension and the existence of contaminants can impact the effectiveness of self adhesive labels. There are other environmental factors which can also affect the labels ability to stick to a surface, like temperature and moisture for example. Special adhesives are available to assist with special environmental labelling requirements.

Colourful paper labels have been used since the early 1880s to identify products. They were introduced to Australia by artists from Europe and the most commonly used printing processes at the time were letterpress and lithography, the first commercial arts. The goal of label production was as simple then as it is now – to try and catch the customer’s eye. Today, many of the labels that were used in the past are collectible and can be found and bought at antique stores.

In the 1930s, R. Stanton Avery was the first self adhesive label manufacturer and made it a globally successful business that is still operating today. But then the invention of the inkjet printer in the 80s changed everything. When the inkjet commercialised, people started to print their own labels.

Now, most industries and their products use labels. Why? Because they are very enduring and last for years, most of them are resistant to water and they do not peel off easily. Most wine and beverage companies opt for self adhesive labels because they withstand degradation from substances and when they are kept in coolers, refrigerators, etc.

Self-adhesive labels are also considered very economical, not only for the industries that use them but for the manufacturers as well. The modern day manufacture of printed labels is very fast and is dominated by flexographic printing processes, and now also digital printing is playing a large part, enabling printers to supply smaller volumes of labels, with greater flexibility for variants within the run. Modern label manufacturers produce more units quicker and for less cost than any kind of traditional labelling methods, making the use of self adhesive labels more accessible to anyone involved in packaging of goods.

And another one of the many benefits of self adhesive labels is their great versatility. These labels can be designed to be of any size and fit any shape a container or product may have. They can be decorated with various features and sub surface printing is also possible.

With the evolution of technology, adhesive labels can be designed by computer programs, allowing them to have different security features like Radio Frequency ID tags and tamper-evident security seals. Industries that are concerned about the environment can use bio-degradable and recyclable materials to make their self adhesive labels too.

So now, talking about materials, there are many different ones to choose from when making a self adhesive label. There is opaque paper, the most commonly used one for labelling products and informative labels; Thermal eco, it is suitable for price tagging and weighing/machine labels; Fluorescent papers, a very bright coloured paper, and it is very suitable and very popular for advertising labels; Silvervac / Goldvac, a metallised silver or golden paper that is suitable for the production of high quality and glossy metallic labels, and it is used a lot for advertising and decorations; Thermal top, this direct thermal paper doesn’t fade as quickly, or stain and it is for universal application for example, it is used for weighing-machine labels for example.

As you can see, there really is no downside for any kind of industry to using self adhesive labels. And like already mentioned, many industries are using self adhesive labels and have been using them for a while now. They will probably keep using them for a lot longer too, especially the following industries:


Many -if not all-brands of clothing are marked with stickers and labels to price codes, to show garment sizes, to show material make up and also to show washing instructions. And with the increase in domestic garment exports, self-adhesive labels in the clothing industry are what is being used right now the most. Its main advantage is to accurately convey critical information pertaining to the garment, and particularly how to care for it.

It is also very convenient for the consumers to view. And since many clothing have to travel and be exported all around the world, self adhesive labels can withstand a hot or a humid environment while on the ground or while at sea.


In this industry, self adhesive labels have established an unmatched reputation of reliability and versatility in every aspect. In the food industry, they undertake many different roles. For example, they identify single items at the retail point of sale, in catch weigh applications, particularly for fresh food.

Barcode labels help to identify the contents correctly for the consumer and enable products to be quickly and easily identified, by scanning of the barcode at the checkout. And they also perform a major function in authenticating products and tamper-evidence. Although there are more uses throughout commerce and industry.

These are two very good examples in which self adhesive labels are indispensable, and there are a lot more industries that use them too, like the oil industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the tire industry, in supermarket logistics and – like we said earlier – the beverage industry.

It looks like self adhesive labels will remain the best choice for a very long time. We come across them everywhere we go, even if it is not a retail store or anywhere we could purchase a product, and they will continue to be an important part of product identification and marking for many years to come. New developments in paper production and adhesive technology are helping the label industry to stay ahead of market demands, and efficiently produce high quality self adhesive labels at fast turnaround intervals. New printing technology is also enabling shorter run lengths and faster set up times to be achieved by label printers. The market remains very competitive for label producers – but those that are able to innovate, and stay ahead of current technology advancements continue to succeed.

Rebecca R. Ammons

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